Today in Not Helping: AP's real leak/fake news
Yesterday, the press seemed to have Donald Trump caught in a lie when he said that the leaks on General Flynn were really but the news coverage about it was false. Well, thanks to the people at the AP, we now have a great example of how Trump's comment can be true.
First, the AP tweeted out a story that Trump was considering militarizing the State Guard units in order to round up illegal aliens. The AP said that the White House and DHS wouldn't respond to their requests for a comment on the story but they ran with the story anyway, going so far to add a headline, "Trump weighs mobilizing National Guard for immigration roundups"
The first blow to this story was Sean Spicer saying that the report was 100% false. "I wish you guys would have asked before you tweeted." The press jumped at that comment, saying that the AP asked for comment and the White House, almost as if this was a set-up, waited until after it was published to denounce it. They also cited Spicer's debunked-by-the-Prez-himself comments re: General Flynn as a reason why perhaps we shouldn't believe his "100% false" proclamation. In turn, reporters called on the AP to release the document that was leaked to them to help support their case.
Which the AP then did.
And it all fell apart.
Upon reading the memo, many journalists started shaking their heads at the AP for their gross mischaracterization of the draft memo that was an internal memo and might not have ever even made it to the White House - a fact that even the AP seems to admit now as they've changed their headline to "DHS weighed Nat Guard for immigration roundups." A not-so-subtle change in subject and verb tense.
Making matters worse, as Gabriel Malor has pointed out in his Twitter account, the memo doesn't militarize the Guard rather it's just an extension of Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 287(g), which was signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton.
So frustratingly, yes, there is a real leak/fake news issue. The draft memo is real but the reporting on it is wildly off to the point that it should be retracted and, probably, apologized for. This is yet another unforced error by the press that is giving Trump cover to claim the reports he doesn't like are fake news. It's another shot to the media's credibility and favorability rating which I believe is lower than the President's. For all the laughter that came from the media about Trump's press conference today, there needs to be some somber coverage about the Associated Press basically proving Trump's point.
And also frustrating to me is that the AP continues updating and changing their story without adding any notes that the story has been updated. If you're going to tout a breaking news exclusive that you then have to double-back on and clear up the mistakes, you should have at the top of your article, bullet points of what changes have been made and why.
So thanks AP for adding the annals of Not Helping. The days of trumping up (pun intended) non-stories to try to get clicks has to come to an end or the media will never rebuild the public's trust.